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Film / Force Of Nature

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Force of Nature is a 2020 action movie directed by Michael Polish and starring Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth, Mel Gibson, Stephanie Cayo and David Zayas. A mixture of disaster movies and the "Die Hard" on an X sub-genre of action thrillers, the movie is about an art heist in an apartment complex in San Juan, Puerto Rico, while a category-5 hurricane is ravaging through the island.

Although the robbers (led by a local criminal known simply as "John the Baptist", played by Zayas) are well-prepared for the raid, they run into unexpected obstacles when it turns out that a pair of beat cops (played by Hirsch and Cayo) are also present in the premises, in the middle of evacuating some residents who stayed behind. Oh yeah, and there is also a foul-mouthed ex-cop with his gun, Ray, who refuses to give in without a fight.


Compare with Hard Rain and The Hurricane Heist, two "Die Hard" on an X action flicks that also revolve around robberies under the cover of a storm.

In Force of Nature, when it rains, it pours, resulting in the following tropes:

  • Action Survivor: Most of the protagonists fall into this category - even Cardillo and Jess, the two cops who are forced to hide and outsmart the heist gang instead of taking them head-on. Justified, as they are simple patrol officers who are outnumbered and outgunned by the heist crew.
  • After Action Patch Up: Troy (Ray's daughter, who happens to be a doctor) treats Cardillo's gunshot wound after almost getting beaten down by a Mook (with Cardillo providing the obligatory Bandage Wince once done with the treatment). Things quickly get romantic between the two, despite the fact that the gunshot wound was caused by Troy herself due to accidentally shooting Cardillo in the leg. Ouch.
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  • Ambiguous Syntax: Griffin repeatedly asks for the "bowl of food", but means "giant pot of meat"
  • Anti-Hero: Cardillo is definitely this, not caring the slightest about his desk job, and preferring to just duck out his shift in a police van instead of going out to the storm to evacuate people, as ordered. Ray is also this in spades, constantly arguing with Troy, belittling Jess for her enthusiasm for the job, and generally not giving a crap about anyone. Both of them get closer to the Ideal Hero though, as the movie progresses.
  • Armor Is Useless: Ray is the only one in the whole movie to wear a bulletproof vest. That said, he's also the only one who dies by getting riddled with bullets. Justified, as he's hit exclusively at body parts not protected by the vest, a fact even he lampshades as he dies.
  • A-Team Firing: With the exception of Ray, everyone who shoots a gun in this movie plays this trope straight. Justified in most cases: most firefights take place in dark interiors or heavy rain (both impairing visibility), while Troy is a doctor without proper weapons training.
  • Ate His Gun: Cardillo attempts this in his first scene, contemplating suicide for accidentally shooting his cop girlfriend back in New York City.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The heisters pack high-calibre assault rifles, many of them sporting high-magnification optics. They are definitely Cool Guns - and the type of weapons you would definitely not pick for a job that involves raiding a building with narrow corridors and other tight spaces, where they seriously hinder movement. Pistols, sub-machineguns and other compact weapons would have been a much more logical choice for the crew to pick for the job.
  • Bad Boss: John The Baptist, the leader of the heisters has no problem killing his accomplices if he considers them a liability. It's not difficult to get that status in his books, either.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: While Cardillo is getting beaten down in the building's patio in the rainstorm, Ray frantically tries finding a good position from where he can shoot his attacker before the Mook kills him. Cue a gunshot sound, and the Mook falls dead. However, it turns out it was not Ray, but actually Troy who killed the goon - though she also wounded Cardillo in the process.
  • Bat Deduction: Griffin pulls this on Paul when he deduces correctly that he's a former Nazi war criminal - based only on his German accent.
  • Battle Couple: Cardillo and Troy slowly becoming this during the course of the movie, as they start bonding after surviving a fight with some Mooks.
  • Battle in the Rain: Most of the action scenes quality for this, given that he story takes place during the downpour of a hurricane.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Jess is definitely roughed up both by the storm and the Mooks during the course of the movie. She keeps blooming despite all of that, with no visible injuries.
  • Berserk Button: When he arrives to Ray's apartment, Cardillo just doesn't care about anything. However, once Ray recognizes him and starts scorning him for the reasons he ended up in Puerto Rico (accidentally killing his girlfriend, who was also an NYPD detective), his indifference turns into open hostility, and says goodbye to him with a Precision F-Strike. Troy needs all her negotiating skills to convince him to take Ray to the hospital after that.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Strangely averted, despite the genre.
    • Cardillo, Jess and Ray all make sure not to waste ammunition, as they only have a limited amount of spare magazines for their handguns.
    • Also averted (mostly) with John's gang, even though they shoot bullets with more enthusiasm, given the higher capacity magazines of their assault rifles.
  • Building of Adventure: The apartment complex is definitely this, containing a dangerous scaffolding, a basement flooded with water, the apartment of an ex-DEA agent full of weapons, the art stash of a Nazi war criminal, and Janet.
  • Blinded by the Light: Ray employs this trick when a Mook gets the drop on him and Jess in the arsenal room.
  • Buddy Cop Show: The movie has traces of this, applying both to the Cardillo-Jess and Ray-Jess dynamic. Being an optimistic and enthusiastic rookie, Jess definitely gets on the nerves of both men, but they both get to like and respect her over time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Or rather animal in this case. Griffin trained his cougar, Janet, to attack uniformed cops on sight. Cardillo remembers this, and promptly lures John to the predator once he takes his police uniform to escape undetected.
  • Comfort the Dying: Ray and Troy reconcile while the former is dying.
  • Cool Guns: Ray and Jess improve their arsenal in the apartment of an ex-DEA agent, who amassed an arsenal of pistols, sub-machineguns, shotguns and assault rifles. They can't put them to good use, though.
  • Combat Medic: Troy turns out to be this, as not only she has to treat Cardillo and keep Griffin alive, but also has to shoot some Mooks as well in the process.
  • Contrived Coincidence: John learns about the existence of the paintings only because the old lady he planned to rob that day sold the ring he was going to steal, so they had to go to her safety deposit box, and he recognized the painting she had just purchased all rolled up in there. All of this on the day a hurricane is about to hit the city.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Troy saves Cardillo in the last second by shooting the Mook strangling him.
  • Cop Hater: Griffin doesn't like cops, so much so that he trained his "pet" cougar, Janet, to attack uniformed officers on sight. Turns out the reason of this is that he's been a victim of racial profiling far too often, the last one ending with him getting beaten unconscious by overzealous cops. He befriends Cardillo and Jess by the end of the movie, though.
  • Covers Always Lie: Although Mel Gibson is heavily emphasized on the cover art, he actually has less than 15 minutes of screen time (and spends even most of that rambling in a chair). He also gets killed off around two-thirds of the movie's runtime. At the same time, David Zayas and Stephanie Cayo (playing key characters with more screentime than Gibson) do not even have their names listed on the original cover.
  • Crazy-Prepared: The (unseen) ex-DEA agent who amassed a huge arsenal in his apartment.
  • Crooks Are Better Armed: While Cardillo and Jess only have their service pistols, John's crew raid the apartment complex with customized high-calibre assault rifles.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Remembering that Griffin trained his cougar to attack cops on sight, Cardillo manipulates John to go to Griffin's apartment after he takes his uniform to escape. This ends exactly as expected.
  • Darkened Building Shootout: All action scenes quality for this once the building loses power because of the storm.
  • Damsel in Distress: Poor Jess is the designated character for this trope. She's ambushed no less than three times during the story, and is finally captured and handcuffed to a chair. After Cardillo surrenders to John to save her, she gets uncuffed, but still spends the rest of the movie disarmed and at gunpoint.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Cardillo and Ray hold a black belt in this trope. Neither Troy nor Jess are impressed by this.
  • Determined Doctor: Troy starts off with this trope, intent on taking his father Roy to the hospital due to his dialisis. She also sets out to retrieve the medical supplies from another doctor's apartment as she insists on treating Griffin's leg wound caused by Janet.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Seeing the cops' police van outside, John gets the keys from Cardillo, then has Cardillo take off his uniform and give it to him, so that he can dress up as a cop and flee undetected. This ends pretty bad for him, as Cardillo then promptly tricks him to go to Griffin's apartment where Janet is locked away.
  • Eager Rookie: Jess works hard to make an impression for her superiors, so that she can transfer to a "more exciting" department. Once she learns that Ray worked at a notorious precinct of San Juan, she tries convincing him to put in a good word for her there. Of course Ray gets quickly annoyed by this.
  • Fair Cop: Cardillo and Jess fill the male and female quota of this trope, respectively.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Cardillo and Jess become this by the end of the movie.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: You would think that someone called "John the Baptist" would rather not rough up a young policewoman handcuffed to a chair, kill unarmed civilians without remorse, or execute his own accomplices without hesitation once they proved to be a liability. You're wrong.
  • Friendly Fire: Surprisingly many characters get on this list.
    • Both Jess and Troy are guilty of accidental friendly fire, hitting Ray and Cardillo respectively.
    • The reason Cardillo retreats to Puerto Rico is that he accidentally shot and killed his girlfriend, who happened to be a fellow NYPD detective.
    • John also does this, although deliberately.
  • Genre Savvy: Zig-zagged with John the Baptist. When negotiating over the radio with John, Cardillo tells him he's willing to give the art up if he releases Jess. John quickly calls the offer a cliché, and orders Cardillo to his location immediately. However, he later buys Cardillo's claim that the art stash contains only facsimiles (and thus is being a diversion) without any suspicion.
  • Hallway Fight: Given that the majority of the action takes place in an apartment complex, it's not surprising that several fights occur in hallways.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Once John takes Cardillo's uniform, Cardillo plays this with John, claiming that Paul's art stash is a diversion of facsimiles only, and that the real paintings are hidden in other apartments in plain sight. John, considering himself an art criminal mastermind, buys Cardillo's claim without reservations, and promptly leads him and Jess at gunpoint to the supposed "real" stash. It turns out to be Griffin's apartment where John quickly notices the locked door of Janet...
  • Hospital Epilogue: Cardillo and Jess visit Griffin and Troy in a hospital at the very end. Cardillo also leaves a little surprise behind for Griffin. One of the valuable paintings that John and his crew wanted to steal.
  • Hostile Weather: Downplayed, as the hurricane represents direct danger only once to the characters (specifically to Troy, who almost falls to her death from the scaffolding when a stronger wind hits her). The hurricane mostly provides just the Closed Circle for trapping the cops and the handful of civilians who did not evacuate from the apartment complex.
  • Hurting Hero: Cardillo suffers from this throughout the majority of the movie. He gets through it once things start developing between him and Troy.
  • Idiot Ball: Let's just say that a lot of trouble (and deaths) could have been avoided if the characters fought with more pragmatism, or proved to be more Genre Savvy.
    • Griffin would probably not have been maimed by Janet if Cardillo, Troy or Paul take the pot of meat to him, as he repeatedly (and urgently) requested.
    • Let's face it, one of the reasons the protagonists survive the heist (despite getting overpowered many times) is that the Mooks frequently decide to use their fists instead of picking up the guns they've lost during the fight to finish the job.
    • Once John has both Cardillo and Jess disarmed and at gunpoint, he kills both of them along with Paul to tie up all loose ends. Nah, of course I Lied. For some unexplained reason, he only kills Paul (the only person who could pose absolutely no risk to him), and then have the cops collect the paintings for him. You know, instead of getting rid of them either by bullets, or by tying up and locking them away somewhere.
    • As John takes Cardillo's police uniform, and prepares to shoot him, Cardillo suddenly suggests John that the stash they found may be just a diversion, and that the real paintings are Hidden in Plain Sight in other apartments. Despite the fact that John is supposedly an experienced art heister, he buys Cardillo's theory, and doesn't occur to him that he may just simply try to save time.
  • How We Got Here: The movie opens with an Action Prologue (featuring Cardillo getting beaten down by a Mook), set roughly at the middle of the story. Once Ray takes aim and pulls the trigger, the screen cuts to black, and the story starts from the beginning.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Although Roy was a cop, his daughter Troy never had any firearms training. Consequently, she accidentally hits Cardillo as well when shooting the Mook beating him down. Later, she empties almost the whole magazine of her handgun at the Mook guarding the apartment complex entrance - without hitting him even once.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Ray is an old, grumpy, sexist cop who (seemingly) doesn't think much of Troy and Jess, throwing insults rapidly at both of them. That said, he makes up for his offensive remarks with Jess soon enough once they need to rely on each other, and also reconciles with his daughter before dying.
  • Kick the Dog: John kills several civilians during the course of the movie once they served their purpose, and he also doesn't have any problem killing off his accomplices if they are considered a liability.
  • Large Ham: Let's just say that Mel Gibson steals every scene he's in.
  • Leave No Survivors: Seems to be John's MO, who kills anyone without remorse if he thinks they can hold him back or pose a risk. Except the main characters, of course.
  • The Load: Paul and Griffin are pretty much this. Paul only serves as the Living MacGuffin of the movie, owning the paintings the robbers are after, but not doing anything worthwhile other than keeping up with Cardillo and putting some pressure on Griffin's wounded leg. Griffin, on the other hand, is just one of the plot devices that separates Cardillo and Troy from Ray and Jess (the former duo decides to get medical supplies to treat his leg wound), and mostly exists to provide the Chekhov's Gun that is used to take out John.
  • Mental Health Recovery Arc: Sums up Cardillo's character development, who drops his suicidal thoughts by the end of the movie and asks Troy out for a date.
  • Mercy Kill: Played with. When Cardillo wounds one of John's henchmen, John swiftly puts the guy out of his misery. However, John is already established as a dangerous psychopath by that point who has no problems killing his own men too if they let him down, making the mercy kill also a case of Bad Boss behaviour.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: How Cardillo and Jess ends up in the middle of the heist. Originally, the duo responded only to a supermarket's 9-1-1 call where Griffin got into a fight with a customer for buying most of the meat shelf for himself (or technically, for Janet). They end up at the apartment complex where Griffin lives (and targeted by the art thieves) only because Griffin - keen to avoid arrest and feed Janet - tells them that a retired cop also lives there, and may need evacuation.
  • More Dakka: Strangely subverted. Ray and Jess raid an ex-DEA agent's apartment and start arming themselves up with sub-machineguns, shotguns and assault rifles. However, once they kit up, they promptly get taken down by John and one of his goons.
  • Mr. Exposition: Technically, Ray's main purpose in the story is to reveal the intentions of the art heist crew, and shed light on Cardillo's background. The info is dumped by Mel Gibson in the way you'd expect.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: In a darkly ironic fashion, Ray dies from this, despite the fact that he's the only character to wear a bulletproof vest.
  • Nice Girl: Jess, who is enthusiastic about her evacuation assigment, and tries to prove her worth as a symphatetic, by-the-book cop. She gets more than what she bargained for when the Mooks raid the apartment complex.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Cardillo almost gets beaten to death by a Mook. Troy saves him just in time by shooting the bad guy with a Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Basically how Cardillo and Jess end up in trouble in the first place. Cardillo wanted to duck out the shift in their police van, while Jess insisted to carry out their orders, and evacuate the buildings in their precinct.
    • Also applies to Griffin, who eventually saves the duo by letting them in his apartment. He's attacked by Janet soon after, as he gets distracted by the cops while trying to feed her.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Although Cardillo and Troy start developing an interest toward each other midway through the movie, they never actually get intimate - the two of them only agree to go out on a date in the final scene of the movie.
  • Obscured Special Effects: We never see Janet over almost the entire film. We're not even told exactly what kind of large cat she is. At The Reveal, it's a very short, poorly lit scene which immediately does a Fade to Black.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: Ray is a cynical, grumpy, old ex-cop, while Jess is a naive, enthusiastic rookie. Needless to say, they get off with a shaky start, but get to like and respect each other through the course of the movie. Or until Ray's death, that is.
  • One-Man Army: Strangely, the movie plays this straight with the antagonists only.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Injuries in this film are only as bad as they are needed to be at the moment for the puropses of plot.
    • Griffin's leg injuries due to Janet are only as bad as they need be to the plot. He spends almost the entire movie immobilized and "bleeding out" with Paul putting pressure on his leg, but then is okay enough to hobble downstairs and immerse his leg in salt water to escape.
    • Carillo gets shot in the leg and stitched up, and does limp a little from time to time but this comes and goes.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: One of the Mooks plays this on Cardillo, who complies. Since the goon is holding his rifle very close to Cardillo's head with one hand, some Good Old Fisticuffs ensue immediately afterwards.
  • The Radio Dies First: Once the hurricane reaches San Juan, it knocks out Cardillo's and Jess' radio, conveniently trapping them in the apartment complex without any means of calling for backup. The apartments they visit also have no landline phones installed, as they mention.
  • Rewatch Bonus: When Jess is looking for Ray's bathroom to get his medication, Ray tells her to take the door on the right, as the one on the left contains his wife's art gallery. It actually contains Paul's inherited art, the paintings the robbers are after.
  • Safecracking: One of the goons does this throughout the majority of the movie. It turns out that the safe was a ruse though, and is empty.
  • Shooting Gallery: According to Troy, Ray did this at home in a very strange way: he bought frozen turkeys every Thanksgiving, and then shot them up for target practice. The young Troy was also excited for this, though not because of the shooting, but rather because she wanted to be a doctor, and therefore could practice removing the bullets and stitching up the turkeys afterwards.
  • Steel Eardrums: As typical of most action flicks, none of the characters suffer from hearing loss, despite all the action taking place in narrow hallways and apartment rooms, and all characters using unsilenced weapons.
  • Take Our Word for It: The hurricane. Allegedly Category 5, but all we see is not-even-really-downpouring rain and one window blown out at a plot-convenient time. The apartment building experiences none of the 160mph winds mentioned in the introductory exposition.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Similarly to the cover art, the official trailer makes Mel Gibson's Ray appear as one of the main protagonists of the movie. The plot actually focuses on Emile Hirsch's and Kate Bosworth's characters.
  • Villain by Default: John and his Mooks get zero character depth, but they still clearly come across as bad guys, given that they have no problem killing unarmed civilians and hunting down cops.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The Mook guarding the entrance (the one who opens fire on Troy and Griffin near the end of the movie) is never seen again after Troy and Griffin get trapped in the flooded basement.
  • When It Rains, It Pours: Played straight in the movie as soon the hurricane arrives, and also once the city gets in the Eye of the Storm, as it then quickly stops for a couple minutes. Considering that In-Universe the television broadcasts also lampshade this trope (warning about a heavy Downpour), it makes you wonder why none of the characters brought at least a light raincoat with themselves in anticipation.
  • Would Hit a Girl: John has no problem cuffing Jess to a chair, then kicking said chair to the ground and threatening to execute her.
    • Played with the Mook guarding the entrance near the end of the movie. He is definitely hesitant on shooting Troy (given that she's wearing a doctor's attire and dragging a seriously wounded civilian around), but once they both take aim at each other, he pulls the trigger.
  • You Have Failed Me: John frequently pulls this (and his gun) on his Mooks he grows dissatisfied with.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: John also has no problem killing off any civilians or even his own associates if he has no further use of them.


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